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Legal Systems And Their Classification

By Expert Author: The present-day legal systems of the world are gen

The present-day legal systems of the world are generally based on one of three basic laws: civil law, common law, and religious law – or a specific combination of these. The legal system of each country however is shaped by its own unique history and thus it incorporates individual variations. These are the different types of legal systems found in various countries.

1) Civil law

It is the most widespread system of law across the world. It is also known as Continental European law or Napoleonic Law. In this legal system, the laws are legislated by parliament or some other form of government and codified or brought together. They are different from common law because they come from parliaments and not from court cases. Usually the courts do not have as much freedom to interpret laws.

The underlying principle of this system is that the laws applied to citizens are made by citizens through their elected political representatives. Judges are only present to administer laws, not make them. Laws are codified, which means laws having a similar nature are bundled together to create a rational system across the whole region. It tries to ensure that all the laws have consistent principles and they interact with each other in a logical way rather than creating conflicts between the different laws.

2) Common law

This system was developed from a set of traditional laws which were first brought together in England around the 12th Cent AD. It was one set of laws that was common to the whole kingdom.

One of the distinguishing features of this system unlike civil code system is that it developed through usage rather than being imposed by legislation. Common law was developed based on the verdicts of individual court cases. Each court case would provide a basis for judging the next case of a similar trait.

Common law is currently in practice in most of the countries. Several countries have also adapted the common law system into a mixed system. For example, Nigeria operates mainly on a common law system but also incorporates religious law.

3) Religious law

In this type of law, a country's legal system is based on religious laws which apply to its citizens in both their public and private lives. Throughout history it has been observed that many countries have had legal systems that are based partly or wholly on religious teachings and these are by far the most common to those countries aligned to Islam.

There are 36 countries with legal systems based on religious laws. These range from countries like The Maldives where the legal system is exclusively Islamic to India and Singapore where religious laws play only a small part in the overall system.

Islamic law (Sharia) is based on the holy book of Quran supplemented by interpretations by Muslim scholars and jurists. It provides rules on how Muslims should live their lives. Islamic law also shares some similarities with the common law, and it can be said due to the fact that it has evolved through application, with current proceedings and verdicts based on the analysis of previous judgment in the cases of a similar nature. There are some fundamental differences in areas such as individual rights and equality especially in the treatment of women.

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